Gerry At The Assisted Living
This week they unplugged the stove.
Hungry and confused he sits at the Formica table.
"I bought you some apples, Dad. How about a clementine?"
Divorced at fifty, rollerblading at sixty, at seventy Gerry wears a bib.
Once he hovered like a skyscraper that cast us in its shadow.
Now his six-foot-four frame is stooped, accessible
his palm extended like a child's.
"The grapes look nice. You want some grapes?"
He stares at the grocery bags with his eyes wide.
Greedy for his coffee cake he eats in handfuls.
Then he reaches into his pocket
and wipes his mouth with a new white sock.
"I need to use the toilet," he announces.
Walking, he lists like a scuttled ship.
Only on the couch does he feel anchored.
He stares at the television but the screen is blank,
the remote control fisted in his hand.
A grimace streaks across his face.
A moment of frustration?
A twinge of pain?
A blink and the thought vanishes.
"Point to where it hurts," I tell him.
I gesture and offer cues
the two of us navigating a crude sign language
of broken body parts.
"Can I make you a cup of tea?"
On his calendar I fill in the Wednesday box.
Marlene came to visit.
The door is already open--it's always open.
The hall smells like urine and despair.
He is my husband's father but still it's hard to leave.
Is it love, I wonder?
Or just pity?
Fortifying myself, I hesitate and turn.
"Remember to use the walker, Dad.
Look everyone uses walkers.
Twenty of them are lined up outside the cafeteria.
Parking lots of walkers."
He gives me a goofy grin and lassoes his hand.
I need to leave.
I have to go!
Still a screw turns in my stomach as I toss out one last goodbye.
Then I watch it land
like a gnawed bone at his feet.